When I scrolled down the list of results my heart sank as I saw my name wasn’t within the 2:1 column, relegating my dreams. I was not alone with my 2:2 degree classification but it did little to subside the feeling that the last three years had been a waste. My degree in archaeology from Durham University seems unimpressive on paper, three years with a mountain of debt snowballing out of control and a degree that was not conducive to employment in journalism, a market that is furiously competitive out of recession let alone in it. This, however, is a gross misinterpretation as the common saying “Don’t let your degree get in the way of your education” rings very true in my case.
I arrived at Durham with no direction for the future and no clue what I wanted out of life, seeing the next three years as merely a stop off point before the real world and by that time I would have life the universe and everything in it completely solved. I have always loved photography, from my first disposable camera to my 21st birthday present of a high tech digital SLR. The arrival of the camera was twinned with it a desire to have these photos showcased somehow; this came to fruition in the form of Palatinate Newspaper, Durham University’s student paper. After a year of taking the odd photo of Durham events and more artsy photographs I applied successfully to the position in my third year of Photography Editor, this is where I found the ‘direction’ I had been searching for.
The role within the paper gave me the confidence to start writing articles, I had always been somewhat mocked for my dyslexia by teachers and fellow pupils alike as it resulted in bad spelling and my brief writing style that always condemned me to bad marks at school and university. However, this newfound outlet perfectly suited my dyslexia as sub-editors ironed out my atrocious spelling and my writing style fitted perfectly into the small spaces in the paper. I later moved on to other papers, writing for four separate student newspapers -locally and nationally- by the conclusion of my degree and I believed that this would be my future, my calling. However, my degree classification had not aided me with swift sail into a journalism job as many employers will see my grade and simply add it to the rejects pile, nearly eight out of 10 employers (78 per cent) have admitted to not even considering graduates without a 2:1 degree despite work experience and perhaps greater ability in the field.
The squeeze in graduate jobs has forced hundreds of thousands of graduates to be far more intrepid with career choices. Instead of knocking on a close door for months and months I have decided to travel further afield in search of career opportunities. During my gap year and subsequent summers I worked in a Tibetan refugee camp in North-West India as a teacher and carer and I have always wanted to show the world the lives they have had, the hardships they have had escaping Chinese rule and living in exile. Therefore, since the UK media industry is closed for economic maintenance I have chosen to travel back to the refugee camp and write a book documenting the lives of individuals living out their lives as a forced refugee.
Although I may never use my archaeological knowledge base and my 2:2 may forever haunt me, I wouldn’t have changed my decision in hindsight. My university education without a shadow of a doubt has created this future for me. My education in what actually is out there may well have got in the way of my archaeology degree but it has prepared me better for life than any first could have ever done. So I urge those seeing the statistics today to not shy away from university life as it will give you far more in life than than a few numbers on your CV will ever represent.